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Open AccessArticle

The Invisible Path of Karma in a Himalayan Purificatory Rite

Department of Asian Studies, University of Haifa, Abba Khoushy Ave 199, Haifa 3498834, Israel
This paper benefited from discussions at the Society for Tantric Studies Conference at Flagstaff, the Asian Studies Seminar at Tel Aviv University, the Advanced Studies Colloquium on South Asia at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, and the ANR Symposium on ‘Encounters with the Invisible’ at the Château de Marçay, France; my thanks to the organizers and participants of these platforms, as well as to the reviewer of an earlier version of this paper. Special thanks to Nadav Harel, Csaba Kiss, Kulwanth Thakur, and the hosts and guests of the ritual under study for thoughtful comments and guidance. The research for this paper was funded by the EU-FP7 Curie-Skoldowa Actions (grant number 334489).
Religions 2018, 9(3), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9030078
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 26 February 2018 / Accepted: 26 February 2018 / Published: 12 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Indic rites of purification aim to negate the law of karma by removing the residues of malignant past actions from their patrons. This principle is exemplified in the Kahika Mela, a rarely studied religious festival of the West Himalayan highlands (Himachal Pradesh, India), wherein a ritual specialist assumes karmic residues from large publics and then sacrificed to their presiding deity. British officials who had ‘discovered’ this purificatory rite at the turn of the twentieth century interpreted it as a variant of the universal ‘scapegoat’ rituals that were then being popularized by James Frazer and found it loosely connected to ancient Tantric practises. The However, observing a recent performance of the ritual significantly complicated this view. This paper proposes a novel reading of the Kahika Mela through the prism of karmic transference. Tracing the path of karmas from participants to ritual specialist and beyond, it delineates the logic behind the rite, revealing that the culminating act of human sacrifice is, in fact, secondary to the mysterious force that impels its acceptance. View Full-Text
Keywords: Himachal Pradesh; human sacrifice; karma; Khas; Kullu; Nar; ritual; scapegoat; shaktism; Tantra Himachal Pradesh; human sacrifice; karma; Khas; Kullu; Nar; ritual; scapegoat; shaktism; Tantra
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Moran, A. The Invisible Path of Karma in a Himalayan Purificatory Rite. Religions 2018, 9, 78.

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